Web Hosting and the Cloud

web hosting and the cloud

The multibillion-dollar industry of Web hosting certainly comes from rather humble roots, but it might not have hit its apex just yet. Like with most other technology, there is always some room for improvement and innovation, and that’s especially true for hosting. Where exactly is the industry going?

The Roots of Hosting

Anyone with some computer knowledge knows they need a server to house a website. However, this was a problem back in the day when few people had computers. At the time, having one server for a website would be particularly expensive to achieve. This conundrum permitted the hosting industry to emerge and evolve over time.

There’s little doubt that cloud hosting is the future of website hosting as demand starts to outstrip traditional, now outdated solutions. Shared hosting imposes too many constraints for scalability and is inefficient in of itself; in this situation, users pay for a specific amount of storage on the Internet, regardless of whether or not it gets used. If you need to get more space, it’s hard to leverage it from a host.

Reasons the Industry is Shifting

It’s clear the Web hosting industry is on its way toward a cloud revolution; this shift in focus should offer great benefits to those who jump into the boat, especially a smaller business. Some of the reasons this shift is occurring:

The cloud is cheaper: Grid hosting was one suggested alternative to shared hosting, but it cost more than double the overhead. Now it’s starting to fail. Cloud services are often offered for less than typical shared hosting plans.

The cloud offers scalability: It’s virtually impossible to hit a limit on cloud resources, making it a place where businesses can readily scale up or down as needed. Unlike traditional hosting plans, there aren’t any physical burdens for the end-user. A physical machine has its own finite resources to share, but a cloud infrastructure has the resources for numerous accounts, all of which are free to expand or contract as necessary. Accounts with traffic spikes might have to pay more for additional resources, but they’re not likely to get bumped offline.

The cloud is reliable: A cloud system is redundant — more so than a single setup. That makes it reliable: There aren’t any problems with a single bad network card or hard drive. Eliminating these risks means fewer catastrophes that can impact the availability of a site. Depending on the redundancy of the network, it could potentially survive major disasters.

The cloud is basic, easy and simple: Cloud hosting used to take more time to get used to, so it was a product only used by the technologically-savvy. Nowadays, it’s hard to tell the difference between cloud hosting and traditional hosts! In fact, it’s entirely possible that you could be using a cloud host without even realizing it.

Potential Problems in the Future of Cloud

Just because the cloud doesn’t present physical burdens for the end-user, the resources do have to come from somewhere, and someone does have to foot the bill. Is it possible that with the great shift into cloud hosting that storage issues could eventually be problematic? Some potential issues to keep an eye out for:

Availability: When a user pays for a public cloud provider, he has no control over redundancy or tolerance. In fact, it’s often not disclosed how the system runs. Each service claims to have the best availability and tolerance while being opaque about their systems, and each month brings news of another cloud site going down for hours.

It’s an even greater concern when data has been lost, whether that is due to a malicious, unauthorized user or the cloud provider itself. Usually, a vendor claims to have the best data backups, but even in guaranteed data backup services, data has been lost permanently. To thwart this issue, companies should create and manage their own regular backups separate from the cloud vendor.

Storage limits: Most companies with website have rooms of server computers running all hours of the day and night to handle requests. For instance, Wikipedia is run on more than 400 servers whose sole job it is to ensure readers can access every page. Cloud computer offers external storage, much like water or gas services do. The provider looks after the servers and may even rent out space to paying entities.

The thing about the Internet is that its size is only limited by the number of servers that run it and their capacity. The number continues to grow by the day, meaning there is essentially no imaginable limit to the size of the Internet.

Forced change: A cloud provider has the power to automatically roll out updates, which could mean forcing a company to change when it isn’t prepared. Imagine being on the verge of a new product only to find out that a key function of the software was removed in an overnight upgrade. Reputable providers will generally provide some warning before making such changes, but it is still a risk to consider.

Best Practices for Cloud Hosting

When it’s time to make the plunge into cloud hosting, there are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure as much safety and security as possible, reducing the potential problems with data in the future:

  • Always ask about exception monitoring systems
  • Pay attention to updates and ensure that unauthorized staff members do not suddenly gain privilege to access data that they normally are not allowed to access
  • Inquire where data is housed
  • Understand the data protection laws of all relevant jurisdictions
  • Obtain a security audit of the provider by an independent third party
  • Know all third parties involved with the company and if they can access data
  • Take care developing password creation and protection policies

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